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Mokume Gane (a quick How To Do)


Joshua States

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Disclaimer: I am no expert at this. I have had some great successes, but I have failed more times than I have succeeded.

Reducing forging heat largely depends on the materials used. Generally speaking, the copper mixes are forged at dull red to black heat once fully welded.

There are three large sections in making Mokume: 

1: Welding. This is done in a specific heat range that changes with materials. It is done flat and gently (think trip hammer or press). Takes several heats.

2. Thinning. Also done hot, but not so hot as to easily break the welds. This is below welding heat, but not much. This is reducing the billet thickness down to a manageable  size and refining the welds. The billet is not quite behaving like a solid piece of material yet. Depending on the shape of your billet and equipment, this can de done with a flat bottom die and a rounded top die, or both flat. If the billet is square, you start diagonally and then go parallel to the sides. Still using the trip hammer technique, even if by hand. This is the most difficult stage and I have lost more billets to delamination during this phase than any other.

3. Patterning. Once you get about half as thick as you started with, the billet is starting to behave more like a solid piece of material. More aggressive forging can be done, but is done at lower heats (depending on materials used).

 

Depending on what materials you use, frequent annealing may be necessary. I have found that any forging of nickel-silver requires frequent annealing. That stuff work hardens very quickly and is prone to hot short. Mokume mixes with NS are done at red heat or lower. This takes a lot of time.

 

I have Ian Ferguson's book, and it's probably a couple hundred dollars now. If you really plan to do this, get the book.

Here  it is on Amazon.

 

I have also been told that Steve Midgett's book is good, but it's in German.

 

This was the best (probably only) set of knife fittings I ever made from Mokume. We made a bunch of jewelry with the rest of it and it all sold.

This is copper/nickel-silver and I patinated the copper to a rich brown.

Mokume Bowie Close up.jpg

 

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“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

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I have recently purchased materials to do another set of fittings. This time I am using copper and pure nickel. When I get around to doing it, I will be updating this post.

Edited by Joshua States

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

J.States Bladesmith | Facebook

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On 5/4/2020 at 6:15 PM, Dave Stephens said:

So, just a thought: If you wanted a finer grain (personal preference, I'm not a coarse grain guy) it seems like you could start with a much larger stack, just do one weld, and then squish the stack to the thickness desired (for those who have a press).

I forgot to answer this one. Just start with thinner stock. you can buy the pieces from Rio Grande or Otto Frei.

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

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On 5/4/2020 at 8:15 PM, Dave Stephens said:

Josh:

I think I've heard others say the same.

 

So, just a thought: If you wanted a finer grain (personal preference, I'm not a coarse grain guy) it seems like you could start with a much larger stack, just do one weld, and then squish the stack to the thickness desired (for those who have a press).


Question: Do you reduce thickness hot, or cold forge/anneal/repeat?

 

Thanks.

 

Dave

 

 

I have always worked non ferrous billets cold/anneal/repeat.It would depend on the size of the billet you would be producing and what final product you are working for.

 

A little mokume info.... http://www.silversmithing.com/1mokume.htm

 

I found Ferguson's book too technical,seem like he was trying to impress a board of review for a PHD degree.

 

a couple simple pieces I made,sterling and 14K palladium gold,copper and sterling.

 

 

 

mokume1.jpg

mokumebrac.jpg

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Are you generally using noble metals, and working them cold? I have only used fine silver/copper once and I cannot remember whether I worked that cold or hot. I think it was at a black heat. I think I remember that noble metals are much easier to bond/use, but I don't have the financial resources or specialized equipment for that. James Binnion seems to be the preeminent artist when it comes to noble metal Mokume. I remember reading about his process and it was very equipment heavy. His process and other info is here.

 

I know what you mean about Ferguson's book. It does go off on the details of the chemistry, when what I really want is a how-to. I cannot fault him for that. He wrote the book for his reasons, and why I read it are my reasons. I do like the devotion he has for different combinations of metals, and the working methods for each combination.

 

Thanks for the article.

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

J.States Bladesmith | Facebook

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6 hours ago, Joshua States said:

Are you generally using noble metals, and working them cold? I have only used fine silver/copper once and I cannot remember whether I worked that cold or hot. I think it was at a black heat. I think I remember that noble metals are much easier to bond/use, but I don't have the financial resources or specialized equipment for that. James Binnion seems to be the preeminent artist when it comes to noble metal Mokume. I remember reading about his process and it was very equipment heavy. His process and other info is here.

 

I know what you mean about Ferguson's book. It does go off on the details of the chemistry, when what I really want is a how-to. I cannot fault him for that. He wrote the book for his reasons, and why I read it are my reasons. I do like the devotion he has for different combinations of metals, and the working methods for each combination.

 

Thanks for the article.

I mentioned in a post above that I really can't talk about techniques.I have Steve Midgett's book and I"ll give everyone a gift to share.

 

https://www.mokume.com/mokume-gane-a-comprehensive-study/table-of-contents

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Score!

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

J.States Bladesmith | Facebook

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Wow!  Thanks Dan.  Thank Steve for me/us!

RIP Bear....be free!

 

as always

peace and love

billyO

 

 

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I have been reading for about 2 hours now. Thank you thank you thank you.

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

J.States Bladesmith | Facebook

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WOW.....and thank you, I'm very deep down a rabbit hole I never knew existed!
I've tried to make something I can no longer call Mokume Gane using the only suitable coins I could find, never hand any inkling of the world this book is revealing!B)

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i was thinking that higher layers would mean that if you were grinding and drilling or deforming and then grinding flat to bring out a pattern you could get more activity with less stock removal. 

 

a blade im working on now is going to need some mokume, i really want to try copper and mild steel, ive read it can be done.

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12 hours ago, steven smith said:

i really want to try copper and mild steel, ive read it can be done.

I'm sure it can be, but whether it's a very difficult one to do is the question. I have never tried it.

There's a little table in Ferguson's book of different combinations and it's color coded for bonding ease and workability.

He doesn't put mild steel in the table, but he does list iron and stainless steel. I'm not sure which stainless he was using, and I couldn't find the reference on a quick pass. I'll keep looking, if you like. I think it was the high ferrous type.

Copper & Iron: Difficult to bond, good working characteristics.

Copper & Stainless: Difficult to bond, difficult working characteristics.

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

J.States Bladesmith | Facebook

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  • 1 year later...

A little update (and change of process) after taking a 2-day workshop with Tedd McDonah. Tedd did things a little differently than I have been doing them and I readily admit, his process is much better than what I had been doing. Sorry, that I didn't take any photos of the cleaning. He buys the full-size sheets (6"x12") of 16-gauge copper and nickel-silver and scrubs them with pumice powder (mixed with water to form a paste) and a Scotchbrick grill cleaning pad. Then he cuts the sheets into 2"x3" rectangles and cleans the individual pieces with little cut offs of regular green Scotchbrite pads and the pumice powder.This is only a light scrubbing, as the major cleaning was done as a full sheet. He does a 4-stage rinse, 3 with water and the fourth with isopropyl alcohol. Wipe the alcohol off with a lint-free shop towel and stack them on another towel with a towel to cover them.

 

Setting up and firing the billet.

This is a 25-layer billet. 13 pieces of copper, 12 pieces of nickel-silver. The plates are either 3/8" or 1/2" mild steel, coated with yellow ochre as a release agent. There is a 3/4" round bar welded to the bottom plate to use as a handle. The clamp is applied before tightening the bolts.

 

1 Starting Billet.jpg

 

Here is a photo of Tedd tightening the bolts so you can see the handle. He tightens the bolts to just before they are going to snap. Don't ask me how he knows when this point is. All I can say is I thought I had gotten there, and he put a good half-turn on each of my bolts.

 

2 Tighten the bolts.jpg

 

The billet is fired until it starts to sweat, and the metal runs a little. 

 

3 Firing.jpg

 

It is removed from the fire and left to air cool. Here you can see the bead of metal at the bolt.

 

4 Cooling Billet.jpg

 

 

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“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

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What I like most about this method is the plates are reusable with a little flattening and grinding. When I used the press to "set" the welds, the plates became useless because of deformation.

Reducing the billet.

The billet is removed from the plates. At this point, this particular billet was about 1-1/4" thick. The reduction process begins by hammering around the edges, and then hammering the center of the billet. Here is one of the students hammering the edges. Notice how most of the billet is off the bottom die. The hits are focused along the edges only. This can also be done by hand at the anvil. We had power hammers available, so we used them. Do all four edges first, then bring the center down to meet the edges.

 

5 Setting The edges.jpg

 

Reduction is done at least for half the thickness of the initial billet. Here is my billet at about 3/4" thick. Further reduction is necessary before pattern development. Note the blobs along the edges are still in place. These will get removed by grinding.

 

6 Final billet.jpg

 

How far you reduce depends on what your final thickness for finished product will be. You want to begin pattern development at about twice the finished product thickness, but no less than about 3/8". Here is my billet after grinding the blobs off and cutting the edges back.

 

7 Trim billet.jpg

 

 

Edited by Joshua States
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“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

J.States Bladesmith | Facebook

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Pattern development.

Tedd explained it so very well: There are two stages to pattern development. Stock removal and deformation. You can do these stages in either order. Deformation first is doing things like twisting, pressing divots or grooves, and then grinding away the surface. Stock removal first is doing things like drilling holes, cutting grooves, or carving patterns, and then hammering the billet flat again. I chose to remove first and hammer flat.

Here is the start of the pattern development. Half my billet has holes drilled into it. The other half has grooves chiseled in and cleaned with a round file.

 

Pattern Development 1.jpg

 

Chisel cutting the grooves.

 

Pattern Development 2.jpg

 

This process is repeated until you reach the desired finish thickness, or a little more, as there will be some further stock removal in sanding and polishing. Here is my billet after three cycles of patterning. It went from about .680" to .30 inches thick. I still have some work to do as I want to finish at around .20"

 

Pattern Development 3.jpg

 

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“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

http://www.dosgatosdesignsllc.com/#!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdJMFMqnbLYqv965xd64vYg

J.States Bladesmith | Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/dos.gatos.71

https://www.etsy.com/shop/JStatesBladesmith

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I'm still slightly obsessed with this, but the only usable material I've found is ZAR2 coins, only had a few and messed up that effort, tough to get more.

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